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Senate Republicans raise concerns about Stephen Moore’s sexist writings

If pressure continues to build, he could be forced to withdraw, much like Herman Cain.

Stephen Moore of the Heritage Foundation is interviewed in his Washington office on August 31, 2016.
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

Herman Cain isn’t the only controversial person Trump has considered for the Federal Reserve board. This week, Senate Republicans are wrestling with another pick the president has floated for the financial body: conservative commentator Stephen Moore.

Moore has yet to be officially nominated, but an outcry over sexist writings he’s previously published deriding women’s involvement in sports could mean that it might not even happen.

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, the fourth-ranking Republican in the Senate conference, has been among the most vocal member of the GOP in sounding the alarm about a number of columns Moore wrote for National Review in the early 2000s.

“I’m not enthused about what he has said in various articles,” she told reporters on Monday, calling these writings “ridiculous.” Ernst added Tuesday that she has expressed her concerns to the White House and that several others in the conference feel the same way.

The pushback over Moore has become more apparent in recent days, as a growing number of Republicans have raised questions about his ability to get confirmed.

“It will be a very problematic nomination,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a close Trump ally, said on Tuesday, according to the Hill. “These are troublesome issues that aren’t going to go away,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) told the New York Times’s Catie Edmondson.

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell didn’t outright oppose Moore’s nomination during a weekly press conference, he wasn’t particularly bullish when asked about his chances for confirmation, either. “If he is nominated, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” McConnell said.

Moore has quite a bit of baggage he’ll have to overcome to get confirmed

A number of issues have already come up since Trump suggested Moore’s name as a potential pick for the Federal Reserve.

Most recently, CNN uncovered past writings Moore had published as a National Review columnist. As Vox’s Anna North reports, these writings focused heavily on sexist commentary about women and sports.

In one column, Moore argued that women should be banned from serving as announcers and referees in college basketball games, and wondered if there was no place where men could still take a “vacation from women.” In another, he argued that women athletes shouldn’t be paid the same as male ones, since they would be doing “inferior work” for the same pay. Moore initially dismissed these pieces as a “spoof” and has since said he is “apologetic.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) told reporters Tuesday that these writings would be a topic of discussion if she were to meet with Moore after his nomination. And Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), too, cited his past columns as troubling.

But the writings are just one of the problematic things that have emerged from Moore’s past. As Amanda Sakuma wrote for Vox, Moore was previously held in contempt of court for failing to pay child support and alimony to his ex-wife in the wake of their divorce settlement. He also owes more than $75,000 in taxes to the IRS, which he says he’s been paying back in the aftermath of what he claimed was a paperwork-related mishap, according to the Guardian.

Collectively, these issues could prove too much for a number of Senate Republicans to ignore.

“A lot of things have come up about his taxes, about his child support, alimony, about things he’s written about women. All those become issues as part of the confirmation process if he gets nominated,” Shelby said, according to Bloomberg.

Moore has also been criticized by Democrats for being a blatantly political selection for the Fed, which has historically been an independent body. Previously the head of conservative policy group Club for Growth and currently a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, Moore is deeply embedded in conservative circles in Washington and was at one point, received warmly by many GOP lawmakers.

Republicans have stood by many Trump nominees in the past, however

Thus far, the White House has stood firmly behind Moore’s selection, and it’s possible that Republicans ultimately do the same, given just how much they’ve been willing to put up with from Trump nominees in the past.

Cain’s potential nomination, which was also seen as being overly political and particularly concerning given allegations of sexual misconduct he faced, finally withered after four Senate Republicans explicitly spoke out and said they would not support him. Because the GOP only has a 53-person majority in the Senate, any nominee needs at least 50 lawmakers, with Vice President Mike Pence as a tiebreaker, to get approved.

Moore’s potential nomination hasn’t yet garnered that degree of explicit outcry, with many members of the party noting that questions about him are premature since his nomination isn’t official. “I would wait until someone’s been nominated and look at the hearing,” Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) said. “He hasn’t been nominated yet, I know you are all worked up over it. He hasn’t been nominated yet.”

While Moore has been resolute in pursuing this nomination, he’s also said that he would consider withdrawing from the process if his confirmation could threaten lawmakers’ electoral chances. “If I become a liability to any of these senators, I would withdraw,” he said on ABC’s This Week.

It remains to be seen whether the emerging pushback against Moore will continue to build. If it does, it’s very possible his potential nomination will go the same way as Cain’s.

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